Use of highly polluting cooking and heating fuels still common in rural China

Nov 1, 2017 12:00 AM

Most of the urban households in China have moved away from burning wood or coal to gas or electricity for cooking and heating, but the rural residents have yet to catch up, according to new research published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health.

China has been rapidly developing, with around 60% of its population now living in urban areas. However, it is unclear whether the patterns of household fuel use, especially in rural areas, have changed.

Researchers analysed data from 500,000 adults from 5 urban and 5 rural localities of China and observed a marked reduction of solid fuel use for cooking or heating over the past five decades (from 84% in 1960’s to 27% in 2010’s), predominantly in urban areas. As of 2013-14, 48% and 72% of rural residents still used solid fuels for cooking and heating, respectively, whereas in the urban areas the proportions were less than 5%. This rural-urban disparity persisted across multiple generations, and was especially prominent in the poor and elderly.

Dr Kin Bong Hubert Lam from Oxford University who co-led the study said “Wood and coal has been linked to ill-health. Our findings provide solid evidence to policy-makers for prioritising access to clean fuel among the vulnerable population.”

Read the full paper here.


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